In late December of 2010, on a frigid, glittery, ice-inflected Kentucky morning, I pulled into Richland Hills Farm. Ed DeRosa and I were on a winter farm tour mission, and our host, Leanna Packard, graciously welcomed us, though I can imagine that there were many things she’d have rather done that morning than walk us between frozen paddocks.
Our first stop was to see Sightseeing, the son of Pulpit standing his second season at stud. He won the Peter Pan in 2007 and finished third in the Dwyer and the Jim Dandy, fourth in the Travers. He was a 3-year-old with Street Sense and Hard Spun and Any Given Saturday; he finished just half a length behind NoBiz like Shobiz, 3 ½ lengths ahead of Any Given Saturday, in the Wood Memorial that year.
And what’s up with Sightseeing? Two major duds in a row, after a series of races that made you think he could be a major competitor at the end of his three-year-old season. He was “excused” from the post parade and rumor has it that he’s sort of a head case. Blinkers on for the Travers: he finished fourth of seven by eleven lengths. Blinkers off for the Brooklyn: he finished last in a field of five. Shug must be scratching his head about this colt.
Leanna acknowledged that life as a stallion had not entirely eliminated Sightseeing’s quirkiness, but on that December morning, it seemed to have had softened. Sightseeing came right to the fence, eager to visit with the humans, gratefully accepting treats and nose rubs. He reminded me that day a little bit of a puppy, eager and goofy and friendly. He seemed disappointed when we walked away.
But we had another stop to make, so we made our way over to see Purim, whose welcome—if you could call it that—couldn’t have been more different from his neighbor’s.
Was it the crunchiness underfoot? The glare of the winter sunlight off the snow? Mid-winter blues? Maybe he hadn’t finished his Christmas shopping. (I certainly hadn’t.)
It’s not, exactly, that he wasn’t interested. He wasn’t sullen, or arrogant. He just seemed…confused? Conflicted? “I want to come over there and see you but I’m not sure it’s a great idea”?
He didn’t ignore us; he was vigilant, watchful, and he’d take a few steps forward. We frantically crinkled peppermint wrappers (the local Kroeger had been out of starlight mints – I’d had to settle for mini-candy canes), looking mighty foolish as we crinkled and crackled and smooched, all in vain.
We took a page from Hansel and Gretel and tried throwing out bits of candy cane, making him step closer and closer to us…and the closer he got, the stiller we had to be, because any motion would send him flying.
(You know what it was exactly like? Trying to socialize a feral cat. No wonder it sounded familiar as I typed.)
And finally, finally, FINALLY…success.
Ed was the lucky beneficiary. That’s his gloved hand.
I knew Purim’s name, but I never saw him race; he didn’t come to New York, and in those days, I wasn’t going to tracks in other cities. His racing record was 23-9-3-1, for earnings of $928,543. His biggest win was the Shadwell Turf Mile in October 2007; he beat Cosmonaut by a neck.
He was a graded stakes winner on turf and dirt, and he entered stud in 2008. His most accomplished foal to date is Gold Megillah, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Graham Motion.
That cold winter morning, he was a funny guy, and I’ve thought about him a lot since then. I was sad to hear the news of his recent death, but glad we got to spend the morning with him. Condolences to his connections and the folks at Richland, so kind and gracious to us that day.
Past performance information courtesy of Daily Racing Form.